Mormon artist Minerva Teichert paints pioneers and Western art

Early in her career, Minerva Teichert studied drawing and portraiture under Robert Henri in New York City. As she completed her training, Henri asked her if any artist had told “the great Mormon story.” Teichert said, “Not to suit me.”

Henri paused and said, “That’s your birthright. You feel it. You’ll do well.” In an unpublished manuscript, Teichert recorded this experience and wrote, “I felt that I had been commissioned.”

A Latter-day Saint artist from a homestead in Idaho, Teichert later went on to create paintings that have been featured in church magazines and manuals and hung on the walls of chapels. Best known for her mural in the Manti Utah Temple, Teichert created many iconic Latter-day Saint paintings of pioneers, Book of Mormon events and Jesus Christ.

Not long after getting married, her husband, Herman Teichert, was stationed in France during World War I. While he was away, Minerva Teichert grew ill with influenza. She realized how ill she was and, reflecting on that experience, she wrote, “Suddenly I was keenly sensitive. I promised the Lord if I’d finished my work and he’d give me some work, I’d gladly do it. With this covenant in my heart I began to live.”

Herman Teichert returned to the United States after the war and their little family moved out West to a cattle ranch in Wyoming, where Minerva Teichert made her studio. The studio was nestled in the same room where the family cooked and even their meals and read scriptures and literature together.

Influenced by her teacher and famous portraitist Henri, Teichert used large brushes and loose strokes in her art. She incorporated her training in figure drawings to keep the people in her paintings recognizable.

Teichert’s paintings often had Western themes. She became a skilled mural painter and portrayed events from Latter-day Saint history and scriptures. Teichert created a series of paintings depicting the Latter-day Saint pioneers, which were a collision of Western themes with the story of her faith. These pioneer paintings were revolutionary because they depicted women in powerful ways, often as the primary subjects of the paintings.

“Get Ye Up into the High Mountain, Oh Zion” oil painting by Minerva Teichert.

Her pioneer paintings included a wide range of imagery, from the “Miracle of the Gulls” experience to Brigham Young and his handcart company entering the Salt Lake Valley. These pioneer paintings were not only mural-like in style, but also in size.

One of Teichert’s most famous paintings was a portrait of Queen Esther from the Hebrew Bible. This painting includes one of Teichert’s characteristic borders, which mimics a mural style. Her broad brush-strokes create hazy figures in the background, with Esther as the prominent figure of the painting.

Queen Esther portrait by Minerva Teichert.  The Jewish holiday of Purim celebrates her Esther's courage.

Queen Esther portrait by Minerva Teichert. The Jewish holiday of Purim celebrates her Esther’s courage.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Teichert’s talent led her to be a high profile artist in Utah. She painted what are now beloved classic images in Latter-day Saint artwork.

LDS artist Minerva Teichert's “The First Vision” (1934) depicts a key moment of the Restoration.

Minerva Teichert paints “The First Vision” (1934) which shows a key moment of the Restoration.

Brigham Young University Museum of Art

As Teichert became a more accomplished artist, she won first place in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ centennial art contest. Her success led the church to invite her to become the first woman to paint a temple mural. She painted a nearly 4,000-square-foot mural in the Manti Utah Temple in 1947.

After painting the Manti temple mural, Teichert continued to paint Latter-day Saint-themed art. She went on to paint 42 different paintings of Book of Mormon stories.

“King Benjamin's Farewell Address” by Minerva Teichert

Minerva Teichert portrays “King Benjamin’s Farewell Address” in a c. 1949-1951 oil on masonite painting.

Brigham Young University Museum of Art

Teichert had hoped to sell the Book of Mormon paintings to the church, so that it could publish them. No one took interest in publishing the paintings, so she donated them to Brigham Young University. This was the end of Teichert’s religious art career.

A grandchild once asked Teichert if she was famous. Teichert said, “No, but I will be someday.”

In addition to painting, Teichert served in the church as a Primary president, gospel doctrine teacher, Beehive teacher and a member of the stake Sunday School board. Teichert had a strong Latter-day Saint faith and dreams of her characterized her spiritual life.

As a young mother, she dreamed that she would soon have a daughter. Within the next year, she gave birth to her only daughter, Laurie. Even though she painted nearly a thousand different pieces of art, Teichert loved her family dela and every night while the family ate together, she read them literature, history and the scriptures.

Teichert was a pioneer in Latter-day Saint artwork. She insisted, “I must paint.” She even wrote in her autobiography, “I want … to be able to paint after I leave here. Even though I should come back nine times I still would not have exhausted my supply of subjects and one life time is far too short but may be a schooling for the next.”

Leave a Comment

%d bloggers like this: